The Story of Broken Hill

Silver Dreams is a gripping tale which traces the growth of Broken Hill from the earliest days of the mining boom at Silverton to a modern day bustling city as told through the interwoven lives of several families tracked through four generations.

The author provides us with a graphic but sensitive portrayal of life in the tough early days of Broken Hill. We travel with Albert, Leon, Tom and Will as they start their lives together on the goldfields of Silverton and we follow them as they work together, marry, have families and struggle through the joys, trials, tribulations and challenges of their daily lives.

It is a story of mateship, of love and commitment within families and between friends and of tough community spirit in the face of adversity and hardship. We live with our heroes in flimsy tents and hot tin cottages, through the dust storms, the heat, the arduous conditions, the drought, the lack of water and the constant threat of disease. It portrays in vivid detail the risks and hazards faced by miners - the rock falls, the explosions, the loss of hearing and the deadly lung disease. We witness the practical tensions, frustrations and achievements in the battle between unions and mine management - the long strikes, the picket lines, the arrests and the eventual outcomes and improvements.

The book delicately describes personal problems within families - drunkenness and violence, difficulties between partners within marriages and the loss of loved ones through accidents in the mines, as casualties during war and even as victims of murder. It covers the terrible scourge of two world wars and their aftermath - not only the deaths of soldier children and grandchildren but also the living death of post traumatic stress disorder, the nightmares, the horrific memories and the broken minds.

We live and share the triumphs of the characters in the book. We enjoy the business successes of Jessie and Isaac's store, Nora and Paddy's hotel and Rebecca and Chris's restaurant and gift shop. We follow the career progression of Albert as a mine manager, Molly as a hospital manager, Leon as a mine foreman and Matthew as a hotel manager. We grow with the families and the individual achievements of the parents, their children, their grandchildren and eventually their great grandchildren.

The book is hard to put down. Each page draws us to the next as we seek to understand every new challenge, every new heartbreak and how they are resolved.

I believe the book is a must for a wide range of readers who wish to understand the practical realities and progression of our early mining history. Its readability, its fascinating characters and its accurate portrayal of the social, industrial and historical contexts of Broken Hill all contribute to the magnetic appeal of Silver Dreams.

Dr David Rumsey AM

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